Technology is on the increase in its use as a valuable teaching resource in schools. Over the past 20 years a significant portion of educational budgets have been invested in electronic education media from games to interactive whiteboards. But this glitzy technological approach has risks. Advances in design and performance can make equipment outmoded within a year and it does not come cheap. Compared to the lifetime of a textbook or educational board game limited primarily by their physical structure, technology in computers has become an almost disposable option. Therein lies a conundrum.
The role of our teaching resources in school prepares children for adult life. Although the national curriculum sets the agenda the school has the responsibility to turn this into a practical scenario. If the teaching equipment is to succeed in educating children in the efficiencies of technology the latest model becomes a necessity. This is good news for the equipment supplier who has designed planned obsolescence to come into effect by injecting a step change in the design to encourage an upgrade purchase. In their defence if they don’t a competitor will. All this is not the best financial news for educational budgets.
The BBC computer of 20 years ago was a marvel in its day but has long since occupied a place as a museum piece. A relic of bygone days and massively superseded by current equipment that operates on a quantum leap in performance and speed. The situation is exacerbated as the pace of change accelerates. Children are also becoming increasingly aware of the brand image of the equipment and want the latest version. Research Machines (RM) once leader in the field of networks and PC’s in schools are currently suffering from a cocktail of technology advances, cancelled educational schemes, lowered school budgets and brand competition. Promotional pressure has increased product awareness with students reinforced by product placements in television and films, which for example, elevated the Apple Mac to be a must have item. Many schools are now opting for Apple Mac benefiting from some price support from Apple who obviously see a marvelous opportunity to capture their future customers.
With children generally aware of the current models of equipment anything that is not the latest model is seen as old tat. With teachers preparing children for further education or employment in a now truly global market, releasing children inadequately prepared in technology will clearly not give them the best start.
Much of the marketing clout in computer hardware currently lies in the USA or Far East. But does it have to be so?. The historical design ingenuity within the UK could clearly develop a world beating design that moves technology to a new versatile platform that could beneficially match the needs of education without the current frantic pace of obsolescence. And why couldn’t the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerman be British.? All we need is the right kind of inspiration, and to develop a state of the art school’s teaching resources that won’t break the school budget. Maybe that’s the challenge all children can aspire to.